Crunching Numbers: Hamlin bucks history

June, 21, 2011

Call it the Curse of Jimmie Johnson. Do it because I told you to!

Jeff Gordon finished second to Johnson in points in 2007. The next year, he went winless. Carl Edwards was second in 2008 and Mark Martin in 2009, and both failed to visit Victory Lane the next season.

Last year, Denny Hamlin was the man to finish runner-up to Johnson, and the way his 2011 started off, it looked like he'd fall right in line with Gordon, Edwards and Martin. With a blown engine in the fifth race of the season, Hamlin fell outside the top 20 in points.

But Hamlin's a driver who can get on a roll, and that's exactly what's happened over the past 10 races. Last year, he went winless for the first five races of the year. In fact, he didn't have a finish better than 17th in those races.

However, Hamlin pulled himself out of the hole on the strength of five wins over the next 10 races. Maybe he needs to tear another ACL; that really did the trick last season.

Me? I need two ACLs and maybe even a third to write this blog. So let's move on to some post-Michigan goodness.

Eight Was Enough

Hamlin led only the final eight laps at Michigan. It was the first time in his Cup career he's won a race leading 10 or fewer laps, but it's becoming a downright regular occurrence in the series.

It's already the sixth time this season we've had a race winner who has led fewer than 10 laps in the race. Last year, there were only four, same as in 2009.

Back in 2007 there were eight such races, but it's definitely a recent trend. In the entire decade of the 1990s, there were only 17 such races. In the 1980s, just 14.

Trivia break: Who has won the five other races this season leading fewer than 10 laps?

This One Goes to 11

Lost amidst all the excitement of Hamlin's win was just how important of a win this was for fans of the No. 11.

It was the 197th win for drivers in the 11 car, leaving the 11 just one win back of the 43 for the most in Cup series history by a car number.

What makes this even more impressive is that no other car number has even reached the 100-win mark. The next best is the 21 with 91 victories.

Trivia break: Who has the most wins in the No. 11 car?

Kings of the Cassill

Some quick hits before I run out of words.

• Landon Cassill: He earned a career-best 12th-place finish. He had never previously finished better than 24th in a race.

• Martin: He made his 809th career start, tying him with Darrell Waltrip for seventh all time.

• Edwards: His fifth-place finish gave him a 6.2 career average finish at Michigan. No one else with more than two starts at the track has an average finish better than 9.5

Trivia break: Who's second to Carl Edwards with that 9.5 average finish?

Trivia Break Answers

1) Kevin Harvick's won three. Trevor Bayne and Brad Keselowski have recorded one apiece.
2) Cale Yarborough won 55 races in the 11. Ned Jarrett had 49 and Darrell Waltrip had 43.
3) Edwards' teammate Matt Kenseth has an average finish of 9.5 at Michigan.

Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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